Today our oldest son turns 24. This post, about him, was written and blogged several years ago, during his first year of college. (He is now into his second year of post-grad studies while serving part time on staff at Harvest Ridge Assembly of God). I felt it deserved to be shared again today, on his birthday:
We recently chatted with our oldest son and my husband asked him how he was doing. He said he’s doing well, excited about soccer and loves it at college. This, to my mom’s heart, was soothing – and it was about to get better.
My husband, Mr. Philosophical, then asked, “Are you happy with yourself?”
“Well, in some ways, no,” my son answered.
He went on to explain that when it comes to certain areas of life – study, sports, character, etc. – he doesn’t settle for where he’s at but rather pursues improvement. This I can accept. Then he went on and said something that surprised me; something that is rarely heard: contentment.
“The other day I was with the soccer team, and in my head I went through all the guys, including my five best friends, and decided I would rather be me than any of them.”
Really? I thought, my brows furrowing. It took a while for my heart and mind to wrap around those words, for my mind instantly raced through memories, stopping briefly along the way at sundry moments in our life; in his life.
First, my mind flashed to the day we moved him into his college dorm room: he with one box, one suitcase, (those two holding basically everything he owned), plus a few linens and things from Target. Half an hour after our arrival, his roommate boisterously came tumbling in with nearly a dozen extra large packing boxes filled with room decor, clothes for every season, various new electronic gadgets we’d never heard of, a new mini fridge, and bragging rights about everything his parents went out and bought him those past few days.
I stood there, a serrated pang of guilt cutting deep.
I was sure my son wished he could be in that kids shoes. Less than a year earlier, on the mission field, our lives were turned upside down and we lost almost everything we owned because of a medical emergency that forced us quickly back to the USA. Our son, too, lost so many things that were precious to him. And there was no replacing most of those things – for any of us.
Then my thoughts turned to the fact he has no car and therefore obligated to work in the campus library for minimal pay while his friends have awesome paying jobs at the mall or at busy restaurants, bringing in hundreds of dollars per week. Their parents bought them cars before going to college. My son has asked if there was anyway we could help pay for a car and insurance, too. “Sorry”, we told him, “there’s no possible way.”
Among the rapid and impromptu thoughts came another one: his new friends don’t get stressed when it comes to break time from college, be it fall break, holiday, or summer vacation. They go “home” and hang with their social circle there, be it church, work, or former high school buddies. Our son has to figure out where he can go – and although his grandparents open their home, bless their heart – once there he really doesn’t have any social life, or again, his own vehicle in which to get around.
Certainly at times like that he must have wished to be like his friends, having grown up in the U.S. and being able to return to the familiar.
So how, I wondered, with less material possessions and a life that’s not the norm, can he say he’d rather be himself? How could he be so content when I feel guilty for not being like the rest of the college parents?
My husband had always told our kids that contentment is a great gift that few ever possess, and that people are drawn to content people. My oldest son concurred with both those statements.
I learned another important lesson from that: I need to not only be content for myself, but also be content on behalf of my kids; I need to quell these female and motherly notions I entertain – these guilty feelings of not having done or given enough.
My son has a rare commodity indeed – contentment. God’s grace has brought him to that place in his life and I pray God’s grace will keep him there. It will take him far in life.
Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Tim. 6:6
Happy Birthday, Michael! We love you and are proud of you!